The phrase “Rocking the boat” refers to one of the characteristics of a person who refuses to accept “status quo” however successful the organization he/she leads at any given point in time. It is also applicable for our personal life as an individual. Common man feels that the Leader creates an unnecessary turbulence during an apparently peaceful state. This phenomenon is referred to as “Rocking the boat”. Essentially, rocking the boat refers to the risk taking aspect of a human being in general. Let’s look at an example:
Lucas-TVS in early 80’s were one of the monopoly companies having 90% market share in auto-electrical in India. Almost at the same time Premier Automobiles had 10 years order book making people to wait for a decade to have the pride possession – the Fiat car! Both the company need not have to do anything to remain in business.
Mr. TK. Balaji the Managing Director of Lucas-TVS has chosen to “Rock the boat” by taking up a major organizational transformation by virtually dismantling both the manufacturing and non-manufacturing systems of the company. For a common man, it was un-warranted as in his stand point the company is doing very well and why do you need to change anything at all. During the same time Premier automobile did nothing and continued in slumber merrily enjoying the market share without taking cognisance of the opening economy in 90s. By the time the global economy opened up in 90’s Lucas-TVS geared up with the most agile and efficient Lean manufacturing systems almost double the output with the same number of people and resources. During the same time Premier automobile virtually perished.
I had the privilege of being a member of the management team that challenged the status-quo in Lucas-TVS then supporting Mr Balaji to realize his dreams. The famous adage “If you wish to remain static, keep running” reinforces the quality of a leader who rocks the boat. In one of the board room meeting I heard Mr. Balaji saying “I am able to see the storm forming at a distance where as my management team feels that there is sun shine”. Seeing something ahead of time which others cannot see is the role of Leadership! It is not only seeing, but “Rocking the boat” against all odds the action the leader is known for.
What is the main point?
Majority of human beings are keen to remain in their comfort zones although it trades off with a mediocre outcome. Most of us are afraid of riding in a roller coaster where as few dare devils try the most frightening gadgets in the world. Many of us have standard menu both at home as well as when we go out for dinner. Even though we seriously review the menu card, we finally settle with our item which we are sure of. Very rarely we ventured for an unknown dish and figure out there are many such unexplored opportunities and avenues. There are two wrong lessons we were programmed by the parents; one is aversion to meet strangers and second, not to take a chance on unknowns – risk aversion! Unfortunately, both these are the real opportunities for growth. In the modern society risk aversion is a common disease that haunts the human beings. Mathematically expressing, Growth is directly proportional to the risk; higher the risk higher the growth.
Charles DarwinThe scientist traced the evolution of species in this planet starting from ice age which they say, it started as a single cell organism, became a fish, birds, mammals and finally human beings. They say the fish took risk by coming out of the water and became a reptile which took risk and started flying as birds and so on. Risk taking is our innate nature and the legacy passed on by our predecessors. Somewhere down the lane we all settled down to our slumber and lost our ability to come out of our comfort zone and take risk.
Christopher ColumbusColumbus set out his sails towards west in the Atlantic Ocean risking his and fellow sailors life and found the great land later became United States of America. Columbus risk taking discovered the un-founded land. Later all risk takers from many countries followed the path shown by Columbus and migrated to this new found land. They built the great nation as super power in less than 500 years. Few critics say that those who could not succeed in their home land have run away to US on those days.
Wilbur WrightI personally don’t subscribe to this view for the simple reason; if it is true, that land would not have given motor car, jet plane and space craft to mankind. Most of the scientific inventions like electric bulb, nuclear energy and so on are from that great nation which had created an environment where people have freedom to think. Freedom encourages risk taking which leads to prosperity.
Let’s look at an Indian example for the same point “Risk takers create prosperity”. In India Mumbai contributes to 10% of countries GDP and it houses approximately 1.5% of Indian population. Most of the people in this great city have ventured to leave their home land, migrated to this place and created a cosmopolitan city. Today Mumbai is one of the commercial cities in the world which has the largest people who left their native place and got adjusted to the fast life style of this great city. This is yet another proof that wherever the land is occupied by “Risk takers” it will be a prosperous place.
I would not have the audacity to say that I am a risk taker. I still stay with egg fried rice after reviewing the menu card several times! Still I can narrate the little progress I made by taking risk in my 60 years of human existence. I rocked the boat every time I turned out a decade of my human existence. At 20 I rocked the boat by migrating from my home town to Chennai to work in a design department of TAFE which was my baby step to learn this art of challenging the status-quo.
At 30 when I am married with a daughter, I went back to evening college to continue my engineering education and continued my educational pursuits till I finished my Research in IIT. I was virtually riding 3 horses for nearly 10 years namely my job, family and education trying to excel in all avenues. When I came out of my college I was 38!
At 40 I left my lucrative job from Lucas-TVS and shifted to Bombay which was not the characteristic of a typical south Indian at 40s. It was a risk in real sense as my children were grown up and had to study local languages in Maharashtra. I am of the view that you need not have been frustrated to rock the boat – you can be full and contended while you explore new avenues. The main point is becoming uncomfortable with calmness! Strange thing; but it works well.
In the words of Swami Chimayananda “Nature’s plan is activity – Inactivity is death – If you keep your arm in a sling at rest for few days, you cannot even move your fingers; this itself is the proof that nature’s plan is activity while the organism is alive. You have to act and you must as long as you are alive”
The pinnacle of my “Rocking the boat” has happened when I was almost 50 when I wanted to build an institution which will facilitate Indian industries to transform as a customer focused organizations. When this idea hatched in my mind, my daughter was due for her marriage and my son was in his engineering college. I hardly had money for settling my mortgages from my final settlement of leaving my job.
I am from a typical south Indian community which is known to be in service and hardly encouraged to become an entrepreneur. People close to me said I was insane to leave my job when I was a star performer and enough positions left in my corporate career. The only person stood always on my side was my wife Meera who encouraged all my “Rocking the boat” episodes. The only investment I had while I founded Six Sigma Alchemy (P) Ltd (SSA) was my determination and obsession for success.
Today, SSA is a well known Business Excellence consulting company facilitating many corporate to inculcate business excellence practices. If you are pursuing a lofty vision, the whole universe will conspires to support you to succeed. It is evident from the fact that SSA has 25 professionals pursuing my dream to build a World class consulting company. All my family members are in the management team of SSA carrying on the legacy I will be leaving behind. If I have not chosen to “Rock the boat” probably I would have missed the opportunity to explore the hidden potential in me and many other youngsters working for building this great institution called SSA.
I am of the view that we have taken human form to act and according to me there is nothing called “hanging the boot” till nature takes its decision to call you back. I wish to conclude this episode with the French essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne:
“The value of Life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long yet live very little”
- There is a Columbus in you waiting to manifest to explore the unfounded avenues.
- Status-quo gives a notional comfort and be aware of it for mediocrity.
- Risk taking is our innate nature passed by our legacy.
- "Rocking the boat” is challenging the status quo for new ways of thinking & working
- You can discover great potentials only when you cross your comfort zones.
- Growth is directly proportional to risk – higher the risk; higher the growth.
- Freedom encourages risk taking – encourage your children to explore the unknown
- If you wish to be 100% successful all the time, you develop risk aversion and settle down to mediocrity.
- The only way to avoid mistake is “not trying anything at all!”
- Forgive yourself for a failure – after all Edison failed 1200 times before he could find the great invention of an electric bulb.
- Finally, watch out for comfort zone resulting out of “status-quo” and “Rock the boat” to challenge them.
- When everyone settles down for “Comfort zones”, a Leader looks for “Rocking the boat”
- Rock the boat and progress in Life to figure out your un-explored potentials.
Look forward to share more tips on Leadership. See you next week. Till then Good bye.